Chemokines constitute a class of small inflammatory proteins that control the chemotaxis of leukocytes. They are also present in the central nervous system (CNS) and contribute to diverse physiological functions, such as the regulation of cell migration, axonal growth and neuronal survival. It is to date not known whether chemokines in the CNS are affected in psychiatric disorders. In this study, chemokine levels were measured in the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) of 137 psychiatric patients in conjunction to a suicide attempt, and 43 healthy controls. A subgroup of patients (n = 42) was followed up with blood samples 12 years after the initial CSF collection, when they did not show suicidal behavior. The follow-up chemokine levels were compared to those of psychiatric patients (n = 17) who had never attempted suicide. Ultra-sensitive chemokine multiplex immunoassay was used to quantify eotaxin-1 (CCL11), interferon gamma-induced protein-10 (IP-10, CXCL10), macrophage inflammatory protein-1β (MIP-1β, CCL4), monocyte chemotactic protein-1 (MCP-1, CCL2), MCP-4 (CCL13) and thymus and activation regulated chemokine (TARC, CCL17). Patients were diagnosed using DSM-III-R/DSM-IV, and assessed using the Comprehensive Psychopathological Rating Scale (CPRS), including subscales, and the Suicidal Intent Scale (SIS). CSF eotaxin-1, MIP-1β, MCP-1, MCP-4 and TARC were significantly lower in suicide attempters than in healthy controls. Low chemokine levels were specifically associated with psychotic symptoms and pain. In the samples collected at follow-up, TARC was significantly lower in suicide attempters compared to psychiatric patients who had never attempted suicide. We also found a positive correlation between blood TARC and brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) levels. Our study thus provides evidence of reduced chemokine levels in suicide attempters, both in the acute suicidal setting, and at long-term, compared to non-attempters. These results warrant future studies on the detailed neurobiological functions of chemokines in psychiatric patients.
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